A couple of weeks before Memorial Day, the local Genealogical Society received a one-of-a-kind donation – a book that endeavors to provide information on all those from Jackson County who served in the armed forces during World War II.
And, when I say “one of a kind,” I’m being literal: the volume that Jackie Matthews Allums of Stockbridge, Georgia, brought to the Jackson County Genealogical Society office is the only copy of the research that’s taken her more than 10 years to complete.
She titled it “Jackson County North Carolina World War II Heroes.” Within its pages, Jackie tries to track down everyone from this county who served. In addition, she compiled a second book that contains photocopies of the draft registration cards local young men filled out during the WWII years. “Some of them couldn’t write their names and had to sign with an ‘X,’” she said. “It made me cry sometimes to find the stories of these young men from way back in the mountains who were willing to serve their country.”
Doing the research and assembling what she found into a book was something Jackie said she felt compelled to do after she saw a small booklet on Jackson County’s WWII veterans in the JCGS library.
“The little book didn’t seem complete,” Jackie said. “I thought, ‘that’s so sad – there have to be more than that,’ so I started searching.”
Jackie began weekly drives from her home south of Atlanta to Western Carolina University’s Hunter Library to look at microfilm copies of The Ruralite, which became The Sylva Herald and Ruralite in 1942; The Herald; and The Jackson County Journal, which ceased publication in the 1940s. She sometimes retyped the articles she found, but she didn’t write anything else in her book except the introduction.
Jackie also did research at the National Archives at Atlanta, located in Morrow, Georgia, near her home in Stockbridge. She made her best effort, but she says she’s still not sure she’s found everyone from Jackson County who served, because Navy records “are not so good.”
For Jackie, doing the research and putting it altogether was a labor of love.
“I really, really enjoyed doing it, even if I did cry when I saw some of those stories,”she said.
After all that work, Jackie only made one copy of her research, and then she gave it away. Why?
“I got a lot of information, and I knew it wouldn’t help anyone else if I kept it,” she said. “I thought ‘I’m 76 years old; I need to get that up there.’”
The first section of her book is devoted to the 78 local veterans who gave their lives during the war, and the second contains obituaries of those who served but survived the war and came home to their families.
The third part is taken from the pages of the three newspapers that existed in Jackson County during the years 1939 to 1949, listing any notices about service members that appeared. Using the late Walter Middleton as an example, I found a notice that he was missing after the Battle of Corregidor; a notice that he was a Japanese prisoner of war; a notice that his parents had received a card from him; and a brief published on Nov. 7, 1945, announcing that Mr. and Mrs. T.F. Middleton of Tuckasegee had received word that their son, Cpl. Talmadge Walter Middleton, had been liberated, would arrive in San Francisco on the next Sunday and would be home “soon.”
After his return, Middleton, a survivor of the Bataan Death March wrote several books, including one that described his time as a POW.
The WWII book marks the second time I’ve talked to Jackie about her writing and research. She contacted me in 2007 after she completed “Memories From Our Side of the Mountain,” which tells about her relatives and friends in the Rock Bridge/Wolf Mountain area of Canada community from the 1890s through the 1950s. Jackie was born there and lived in Canada until her family moved to Georgia when she was around 10. “Memories From Our Side of the Mountain” started as a family history for her children and grandchildren, but she collected so much material – including lots of photos borrowed from friends and relatives – that it became a book. She began researching her WWII book after she finished the one on Wolf Mountain.
When I talked to Jackie in 2007, we discovered she and I had once lived in the same house at Rock Bridge. As it turns out, Jackie and I are two sides of the same coin: her parents packed up their children and moved from Rock Bridge to Georgia. I did just the opposite, moving from the Atlanta suburbs to rural Jackson County. I’m still writing that story.
Lynn Hotaling was editor of The Sylva Herald for 18 years, retiring in January 2016. She is the author of two books on local history.